Senator Boxer said, “As we take time this year to celebrate Earth Day, we remember the progress we have made since the first Earth Day 45 years ago. We have seen the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of landmark legislation that protects the air we breathe and the water we drink.
“However, in recent years, Republicans in Congress have repeatedly tried to roll back our public health protections for clean air and clean water, and they have blocked attempts to address dangerous climate change. They are doing this at a time when our world is witnessing record warm temperatures. Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that March 2015 – and the first quarter of 2015 – were the hottest on record.
“I agree with President Obama who said this past weekend that there is ‘no greater threat to our planet than climate change.’ Rest assured that on this Earth Day and every day, I will keep working to support President Obama’s initiatives to address climate change and to protect the health of our children and families.”
At the Summit of the Americas earlier this month, President Obama said, "When I came to my first Summit of the Americas six years ago, I promised to begin a new chapter of engagement in this region. I believed that our nations had to break free from the old arguments, the old grievances that had too often trapped us in the past, that we had a shared responsibility to look to the future and to think and act in fresh ways. I pledged to build a new era of cooperation between our countries, as equal partners, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
Today, Secretary of State John Kerry echoed the President's sentiments in remarks at the 45th Annual Washington Conference of the Council of the Americas, where he underscored how the United States is meeting that commitment in the region: "What we need is for a common agenda for the shared progress, a blueprint for the next steps that will help to ensure the democratic and economic promise in the region is actually fulfilled. That is why the United States is engaged throughout the Americas on priorities that our partner governments and its citizens themselves have identified as important. These priorities fall into three broad categories. They include the building blocks of shared prosperity – education, innovation, trade, investment. They include energy and environmental security. And they include reconciliation and strengthening democratic and inter-American institutions across the board."
Building Blocks of Shared Prosperity
Secretary Kerry said, "To succeed, we must do more to empower the people of our hemisphere with education, technology, open governance, and innovation. And that is exactly what we're trying to do." Since President Obama first announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative in 2011, the student exchange figures are up 13 percent for U.S. students to the region and 12 percent for students from the region to the United States.
The Secretary discussed how the U.S. is laying the foundation for creating the jobs of the future, "If our goal is to reduce poverty, which it is; to further expand the middle class, which it is; to help families build a better life for their children; which it is; to offer the alternatives to crime and violence, narcotics, and so forth; the answer is pretty simple. We need to not only educate; we need to innovate. And that means doing more to help small businesses promote jobs and tap into the global economy."
One of the smartest investments that we can make, Secretary Kerry noted, is in the promise and the potential of women and girls. "No team can win a game with half the team on the bench. It doesn't work. No economy can thrive when women are not given a seat at the table. And it's clear from all the evidence that every time women are – and girls – given the opportunity to be able to participate and take part, it changes and transforms, it stabilizes; it opens up the possibilities of democracy, and often, peace. That's why President Obama launched the Women's Entrepreneurship in the Americas initiative to give women and girls the training and tools that they need to become the next president, CEOs, and entrepreneurs in their communities."
Secretary Kerry also undescored the impact trade and investment can have on shared prosperity in the Americas. He said, "Our free trade agreements with 12 countries, from Canada to Chile, have expanded economic opportunity for millions there and here. Pacific Alliance countries are pursuing the vision of a more fully integrated and open Latin America. We're working now with four other countries in this hemisphere on a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership. And I am very happy to see trade promotion authority beginning its journey through Congress in preparation for that agreement. TPP will build prosperity throughout the region, and it will do so based on shared principles. This is not just a technical trade agreement. It's a strategic opportunity to be able to raise standards, to be able to put our values into a trade agreement itself, and we need to seize it."
Energy and Environmental Security
Shared progress can also be found through joint action on clean energy and climate change, Secretary Kerry underscored in his remarks, saying "While many of the hemisphere's largest countries are global energy producers, many of the smaller ones are bearing the biggest burden when it comes to extreme weather events, like hurricanes, tropical storms…If you look at the economic costs, it is far, far more expensive to pay for the dislocation, the disruption, for the crises that are coming at us as a consequence of climate change, than it is to adjust your energy policies now in order to avoid it."
Secretary Kerry urged that the solution to climate change -- making the right choices in energy policy -- will ensure that we avoid the worst consequences. "So just as climate change presents the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean with a common threat, the need to develop secure and sustainable energy sources is a shared opportunity, and it is an opportunity to make the right choices – the right choices about conservation, about wind and solar power, about hydro, about fuel and utility standards, about efficiency, about building codes, about transportation choices, about setting ambitious targets to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases."
Reconciliation and Strengthening Democratic Institutions
Creating strong and equitable economies -- is essential to the future of our hemisphere -- and will become easier if we are able to remove some of the obstacles to political cooperation that have been holding us back. Secretary Kerry discussed the longstanding civil conflict between the Government of Colombia and the FARC saying, "We've seen in recent days this effort to establish a lasting peace is obviously not easy; none are. But the government and FARC have been fighting for longer than most Colombians have been alive. And we know that if the parties can reach an agreement, if they can finally bring peace to a country that has seen over five decades of internal conflict, it will unleash enormous potential for the Colombian people. Here in the United States, we will do all that we can to help Colombia achieve that peace."
He continued to highlight opportunities of our own, for political cooperation. "In December, President Obama made the courageous decision to update our Cuba policy, which was doing far more to isolate the United States from our friends in the hemisphere than it was to isolate Havana. In Panama, the President and I met for hours with our Cuban counterparts, the first such formal meetings since the 1950s. And we're committed to moving forward on the path to normalized relations. This new course is based not on a leap of faith, but on a conviction that the best way to promote U.S. interests and values while also helping to bring greater freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people is exactly what we are doing."
Secretary Kerry conveyed confidence that the United States' commitment to a new kind of relationship with Latin America will contribute significantly to our common agenda for the hemisphere, which includes the strengthening of democracy and the respect for human rights. "Why does this matter?" he asked. "Well, it matters because countries are far more likely to advance economically and socially when citizens have faith in their governments and are able to rely on them for justice and equal treatment under the law. It matters because young people who have opportunities at home will stay and contribute to their societies instead of leaving in search of better luck elsewhere. It matters because freedom of thought and expression are the keys to innovation, which is how whole new industries begin. It matters because, in that most curious of ways, people who are given the liberty to be different are also the ones most likely to unite and band together in the face of shared threats."
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This morning, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that she will deliver commencement addresses at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Preparatory High School (King College Prep) in Chicago, Illinois.
All three schools are doing their part to answer the President’s call to ensure that America has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Remarks at the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership - Milan Expo Reception
Secretary of State
AMBASSADOR SELFRIDGE: Ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, distinguished guests, welcome to the Department of State for tonight’s celebration of culinary diplomacy. The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership and the American Chef Corps are some of the most unique and delicious programs we have here at State. While they might not be our most traditional ambassadors, these chefs are diplomats in the truest sense of the word. They foster cross-cultural exchange by interacting with people all over the globe. They advance economic diplomacy by promoting American food products. They increase travel and tourism by promoting the United States as an international culinary destination. And finally, they elevate formal diplomacy through their assistance in entertaining world leaders here at home.
And speaking of leaders, I now have the honor to introduce the Secretary of State to speak a little bit about – more about the impact of this special program and its effect on diplomacy. With that, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much indeed. Thank you, thank you. Thank you very much, Ambassador Selfridge, very much. He’s our chief of protocol, so he makes sure everybody gets to the right place at the right moment – usually. (Laughter.)
Really, good evening and welcome to the State Department, to the Ben Franklin room. I am thrilled to see all these chefs standing here tonight. We are really honored to have you here. I want to thank – you are our guests of honor – the American Chef Corps, dozens of American chefs who lend their time to Diplomatic Culinary Partnership. And I’ve been able to enjoy the pleasure of your gifts of doing a meal for us in our diplomatic settings, one or the other. I want you to know that we are very, very grateful to you for the contribution you make, and I’ll say a little more about that in a moment.
I love that what we’re celebrating – food and the ability to do diplomacy in conjunction with food – as a child, the only celebrity chef that I heard of was named Boyardee. (Laughter.) And in college I lived on potato chips and pizza and all the normal stuff. I know Ambassador Selfridge is going to present awards momentarily, and unfortunately I will have to go to yet another event this evening, and I apologize for that. But I want to congratulate each and every one of the winners. I think we have over 50 tonight – over 50 of the country’s top chefs with us. And will tell you, as somebody who has worked hard to get 28 NATO countries in one room, getting all of you here is a big deal, and everybody joins me in saying thank you for it. We are very appreciative. (Applause.)
I want to thank Susan Ungaro and the James Beard Foundation for their partnership, both through the American Chef Corps and also on the USA pavilion in the Milan Expo, and I’ll talk about that in a few moments, if I can. I want to thank our cosponsors for this evening, Mars Incorporated and Chenier Energy.
And finally, I want to welcome a lot of members of the diplomatic corps – ambassador from Canada, ambassador from France, other ambassadors here. If I start leveling out all of them, I’m in trouble, but there’s one I’m going to particularly single out, and you all will allow me that privilege. It is Ambassador Bisogniero of Italy, who will be hosting, obviously, Milan. Claudio, thank you so much for being here tonight, and we’re happy to have you. (Applause.)
I also want you all to welcome and say thank you to an old friend of mine who’d taken on the task of being the commissioner to the Milan Expo. And I just swore him in as an ambassador today, and that is our Ambassador Doug Hickey, who’s over here, and you all can say hello to him. (Applause.)
And we have a lot of government officials who’ve joined us tonight. I know that when they heard that we were serving hors d’oeuvres by Jose Andres and Vikram Sunderam and Isabella – Mike Isabella, Peter Callahan, Jamie Leeds – this was not a tough sell, folks. (Laughter.) People have been sneaking in through the back doors. There we go, see? We’ve got a few sneak-ins here. I want to – it’s all right. I can call them out on it. (Laughter.)
I want to tell you something: I love to cook. I just had the opportunity to meet with all the chefs downstairs for a moment, and I really do love to cook. And obviously, in this job, I don’t get time to cook. It’s not a cooking kind of job. (Laughter.) Different kind of cooking. But it takes time to cook. You have to really appreciate it. You have to love – you have to go out and buy the things you want and prepare them all properly and then take the time with good friends to really enjoy it.
But when I was practicing law in Boston, one night I went out to dinner at a restaurant right near where my law office was, and I was bored stiff practicing law privately. And this friend of mine and I clearly had at least one good bottle of wine too many, and when we came out after dinner I was craving a chocolate chip cookie. And this has been a craving all my life. Those who know me well know I am a cookie freak. And so we said, “Wow, there’s nowhere in Boston down here where we can buy a great cookie late at night.” And I looked over in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, for those of you who know the place, and there was an open stall in there. And so we just sort of decided on the spot – we said, “Look, we’ve got to open a place where we can get a cookie. This is totally ridiculous.”
And the next morning, as a bored lawyer, I found myself in the office of the Rouse Company from Baltimore – in Boston – negotiating for the space. And they said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “Well, I want to bake cookies and sell them.” They said, “No, we’ve got too much fast food here. We can’t do that.” And I said, “Well, what do you want?” They said, “Well, we really want a gourmet establishment.” I said, “That’s exactly what we want. That’s what we want to be. We want to be a gourmet establishment, so we’re going to do gourmet cookies” – (laughter) – “and great brownies and macaroons and things like that.”
So literally they were crazy. They signed the deal; I signed the deal. About two months later, after I had ordered my Hobart mixer and all my different accoutrements – a fancy new stove that cooked in a way that you put it in, you saw it come out at the other end; it was marvelous, not unlike those of you who remember David’s Cookies in New York. And so I was having these great visions of 40 stores in 40 cities very quickly, and I suddenly realized, “You know what? I don’t have any menus. I don’t have any recipes. We’ve got to find a way to do this quick.” So I literally went home, and on my home stove I started baking as many different chocolate chip versions as I could make, and then learned about the exponential aggrandizement of a recipe as you try to make it work with a big Hobart mixer and make it happen.
Lo and behold, we actually came up – by cribbing a little bit off the back of a Toll House cookie thing and working with – (laughter) – working very cleverly with molasses and pure Lindt chocolate and the best butter we could find and so on, we made a great cookie. And we opened on time, and so help me God, within one year we had won the Best of Boston and the store is still in Faneuil Hall Marketplace today and still making cookies. (Applause.)
So there is – so I actually know what it’s like to rush out of the office and make sure we have enough flour on hand and do all the rest of this. It was great, great fun, and I actually learned an enormous amount, frankly, about small business and part-time employees and health inspectors and paying your taxes – (laughter) – and all those good things.
There is absolutely something about good food that brings people together, and that’s what diplomacy is all about. And I have just returned from my 60th trip as Secretary of State. I’ll tell you, on many of those trips, without any question, the meals that I’ve shared with various foreign counterparts have been often the best part. But invariably, they are a critical part of our ability to be able to do business and talk and break bread and break down barriers and listen to each other and understand culture, history, and really dig underneath all the policy issues. The – literally some of the most candid and productive conversations that I have had have been over a good meal in somebody’s country.
Last fall, I hosted China’s state councilor, Councilor Yang, in Boston for what ended up being a three-hour lunch at Legal Seafoods. And Roger Berkowitz is here somewhere, the owner of – there he is over there – Legal Seafoods. And we were overlooking Boston Harbor, and we’d spent a full day up there together talking, and we were working through a lot of issues. But it was over this meal I was able to point out to Boston Harbor and talk about what we’d done to clean up the harbor and how you can take an issue and change it, and we were talking about climate change. That became a foundation for our ability, ultimately, when I went to Beijing to be able to negotiate with them a landmark deal between China and the United States, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. We came to an agreement, and I tell you, Roger, that setting and that meal were critical in helping people to understand the mutual interest that we shared in that. We – I think people connect in unique and powerful ways over food, and often you can make progress around a dinner table that you can’t make around a conference table. A little good wine doesn’t hurt either, for those who drink it.
The important role that food plays in diplomacy is one of the reasons that we joined with the James Beard Foundation to launch the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership in 2012. And the chefs that we have on board as part of our American Chef Corps help us share diverse American culinary traditions with the world. And along with our remarkable team here from the State Department, as well as – we have White House chefs here tonight also – we’re very grateful for what they do every day, day in and out, to help us do this. A couple of weeks ago, one of our chefs – Mike Isabella, who owns and operates some fantastic restaurants here in Washington – prepared an extraordinary meal in honor of the president of Afghanistan and his delegation. Time and again, American chefs volunteer their time and their talent in this endeavor.
But the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership is about more than exceptional catering. Our chefs have actually become culinary ambassadors. They host visiting chefs and restauranteurs from places like Algeria, Colombia, the Czech Republic. They travel abroad to bring their expertise to chefs and citizens around the world. And to date, American chefs have visited more than 30 countries in service of this specific partnership. When they travel, they actually wind up doing remarkable things. Last year, one our chefs, Mary Sue Milliken, went to Islamabad, where she spent several days with a famous Pakistani chef, Chef Shai. And they explored the country; they met with local chefs and food entrepreneurs, and they filmed a six-episode miniseries focused on these two women cooking side by side, sharing their respective culinary traditions.
On top of that, Mary Sue and Shai also taught a program of live classes targeted at Pakistani audiences. They taught one class, for example, to young mothers who wanted to learn how to cook nutritious food that their kids would actually want to eat. And they taught a group of budding entrepreneurs who loved to cook and wanted to learn how they could build a career that incorporated their passion. And between the classes and the televised miniseries, Mary Sue’s visit literally reached millions of people.
Another of our chef partners, Art Smith, had a different but equally impactful experience when he traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2013. He met with Arab and Jewish chefs, restaurant owners, everyday people who had a passion for food. And he cooked a number of meals with the folks that he met abroad, molding the traditions that they had with – that they had grown up – that he had grown up with in the American South. And I think it’s safe to say it was probably the first time that some of the people that he had dined with had ever tasted authentic grits and gravy. (Laughter.) And at the end of the trip, Art joined with Israeli and Palestinian chefs to prepare a meal at an event cosponsored by our embassy and consulate. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that this experience only reinforced in him the notion that there are no truly angry people in the world, just hungry people. (Laughter.) So these are two impactful examples of the ways in which food and chefs and this whole program can make a difference in the world and break down the barriers. The truth is that they have built bilateral relationships in ways that an assistant secretary of state or myself wouldn’t necessarily have the time to do or be able to do.
In addition to supporting American diplomacy, these chefs are also helping American businesses. For example, chef Marc Murphy visited our embassy in Rome around Thanksgiving one year, hosted an incredible holiday feast for dozens of food importers, journalists, and Italian officials. It was an opportunity to literally bring the Italian folks in and educate them and share with them the whole experience of Thanksgiving, where we have our own special traditions, but also highlighting a number of agricultural exports from the United States. And it worked. Exports went up for every single product that Marc featured during his visit.
I had the opportunity, as I mentioned earlier, to say a couple words and chat and take a photo with all the chefs here tonight. I know this matters to each and every one of them, or they wouldn’t be here. They’re as committed to American diplomacy as any group of people I’ve ever met, and they’re doing a terrific job of representing us abroad, folks. Now we’re asking them to represent us again at a very special event in the course of this summer and into the fall: as our culinary ambassadors to the upcoming World’s Fair, the Milan Expo 2015, which actually opens just 10 days from now. As many of you know, the theme of this year’s World’s Fair is “Feeding the Planet.” And we have a remarkable USA pavilion that will help us demonstrate all that we are doing and all that we hope to do in order to find solutions to food security for the 21st century.
Food security is going to be greatly challenged by climate change. Crops that grow one place today may not grow there in the future. Water may be scarce. Drought in certain parts of our country is affecting farming, affecting people’s choices in their back yard and their ability to have a garden and so forth. By 2050, there will be an expected 9 billion people on this planet. In the not-so-distant future, my friends, global food security is going to be something that demands our attention not then, but now. And I am grateful that our hosts in Milan have decided to make this the focus of this expo.
So I want to take this opportunity to thank our USA pavilion sponsors, some of whom are here tonight. They’ve made it for us – possible for us to be able to prepare many informative, interactive, and interesting exhibits, and we have a spectacular pavilion there, the outside of which – the wall going up to the top is actually a growing garden or farm space, if you will. We’re expecting this pavilion to attract millions of visitors. Already some 2 million tickets have been sold in China. There’ll be 10 million or more, I think, sold overall. There’ll be more than 20, 25, 30 million people visiting. It’ll become a major event and a major attraction on a global basis. And we are expecting this to include government leaders, business executives, global experts, and frankly, we could not have done this without all of you.
As part of our presence at the Expo, our chefs are going to help us raise awareness about the health qualities and the safety qualities of American food. We’re going to showcase American innovation and technology and promote our agricultural products and trade. And everybody involved in our pavilion and our visiting chefs are going to help us explore the future of the global food system and participate in discussions on things as simple as labeling, school lunches, working with others from around the world to figure out ways that chefs can help drive sustainability and help us protect the entire food chain.
Now, we are convinced that this cadre of chefs who’re going to take part in this – and many of whom are not here tonight – will absolutely raise global awareness about the extraordinary quality of American culinary taste and capacity. And I’ve reminded you a lot about food, talked a lot about food, and I know that since there’s a lot of food within a couple of feet of you, this is risky if I go on much longer. (Laughter.) So I want to raise a glass – I don’t have an appropriate glass here of whatever. I don’t think you do either. I don’t see a lot of glasses.
So when I’m gone, when you get a glass – (laughter) – raise a toast appropriately – there you go. Gary Doer, our ambassador from Canada is well equipped. He’s got his glass. So there you are. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is to the extraordinary contribution of our chefs. Thank you for feeding us, thank you for helping to promote our country, thank you for making us proud. And we look forward to seeing you in Milan. Here, here. Thank you. (Applause.)
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